Thursday, May 14, 2009

BTA III Preliminaries

I attended half of the BTA III meeting yesterday. I came away very irritated but I will say from the outset that the list put out is preliminary. Okay, I said it; it's a preliminary list.

(Now that I said that I'll also say that the BEX lists are also called preliminary and rarely, if ever, changed when presented to the Board.)

Here's a link to the presentation (does not include list of projects).Also the Meng Analysis report that this is all based on is also not yet online but when it is, I'll put it in as an update.

The basics (no, it doesn't all make sense):
Initial Priority project costs: $431,794,000
Initial Seismic Costs: $119,447,000

Backlog Maintenance and Repair
Project Costs (including Closed Schools): $535,210,000
Building Envelope Improvements: 71,845,000
Heating and Ventilation Improvements: 183,848,000
HEalth and Safety Improvements: 37,595,000

This was how it was presented but I didn't get how it all adds together. (I'll add that to my list of questions because I didn't hear it from the district staff person.) None of what the State Auditor's report of from Sept 2008 was addressed or asked about by the Board.

Here's what the State Audit recommended:

"We recommend these districts:
• Develop and implement a formal deferred maintenance plan to divest their
deferred maintenance backlogs. This plan will include the appropriate actions
needed to eliminate the deferred maintenance backlog and an establishment of
a timeline to complete the work with a corresponding budget plan.
• Develop and implement a formal preventive maintenance program. A
preventive maintenance program will help prevent the risk of unforeseen
equipment and system failures; lengthen building and equipment life; and
eliminate the costly accumulation of deferred maintenance."

Staff merely explained how much there is to do and what they proposed for BTA III but I heard nothing about the issue of deferred maintenance and how to get ahead on these issues. How did we get to the place of so much deferred maintenance and where is a "formal preventive maintenance program"? If you are going to ask the public for money, then explain how you will take care of the buildings better in the future.

The preliminary BTA would ask for:

Buildings $209,555,000
includes roofs, exterior, interior, ADA/Life Safety, mechanical/electrical, playgrounds and seismic
Technology 78,195,000
includes data management, school servies, district services, IT infrastructure, classroom services, business operations,data management
Academics 119,665,000
includes early learning classrooms for all Title 1 schools, science classrooms, computer labs, spec ed therapy spaces, textural materials adoption, athletic field replacements, etc.

Other Items 5,200,000
includes BEX/BTA planning, Levy monies never collected,BEX IV election costs

TOTAL for BTA III: $412,615,000

So BEX III was $490,000,000. The last BTA was $178M. Look at those sums. How did we get to a time and place where we were asked for less than $200M less than 6 years ago, the district continued to backslid on basic maintenance and now they need over $412M (and that won't even cover all the backlogged projects)?!


The Board asked good questions along the way. I won't go over everything but here are highlights:

  • Staff said there this BTA has many projects to the north as the south/southeast area schools have had a lot of work and with capacity issues, the north end schools need more attention. This got a worried comment from both Sherry and Peter which I found confusing. They seemed to be concerned with how the public would take that.
  • There is this continuing question (which I had raised at the Assignment meeting on Saturday) about whether the levies still need a percentage of the last election before the levy vote. I was told Saturday that it wasn't there anymore as part of the Simple Majority law. However, Peter Maier said at this meeting that it was. The Board asked staff for clarity on this issue.
  • Life safety issues are the number one priority item for BTA. The Board had to get this clarified from staff. This priority is followed by any building system component that has 0-4 years left of useful life.
  • Roof work is proposed for interim sites and closed schools and costs will be higher because they proposed to include roof diaphragm (seismic) work at the same time to save costs down the road.
  • Big issue that we should all be aware of: it was suggested and agreed upon by the Board (informally) that pre-planning for BEX IV should start with this BTA. They want to somehow figure out a "theme" for BEX IV i.e. what is the focus. That means we should pay careful attention because this involves, as the discussion brought out, capacity issues as well as capital issues.
  • Michael DeBell stated that the planning has to be more long-term so that the district doesn't do things like build fields at Denny under BTA and then rip them out a few years later under a BEX. Well, there was someone paying attention.
  • We have a pretty thoughtful and straightforward guy in the district's fairly new IT head, Jim Ratchford. He was quite direct in answering questions like Harium's " Do we have a co-location site for our data?" . The answer is no and that was not what Harium wanted to hear because if the district building has problems (fire, earthquake), we need a second site for the data to be accessed. Cheryl threw in that middle school kids in Kent all have district laptops. Mr. Ratchford was aware of this but said it was ambitious for us but he would look into how they paid for that. Mr Ratchford said the district network almost went down on inaugural day (despite people being asked not to watch on-line).
  • The Academic/Athletic needs area was handled by Carla who did her best but seemed to not be able to answer all questions. Also, this area was the most vague in costs and where the work would show up. For example, it says 10+ additional science classrooms, more spec ed therapy spaces, more computer labs and more skills centers but not where any of it will go.
  • Sherry wistfully pointed out how much money was going to fields than textual materials adoption (the two items were right next to each other and it was a bit glaring that fields get almost double the text money).
  • Also there was this oddity of "elementary school lunch rooms" stuck into academic which seems wrong (and a stretch to put it there). Carla didn't know much about this but said it was for Kimble, Green Lake and Sanislo which have open concept buildings (I see the issue but $15M?).
  • Also, we have to spend $4M to convert all the analog tvs to digital.
  • We will also be putting in 6 "high tech" classrooms at Cleveland to support the STEM program. This one kind of gives me pause because Cleveland is a very new building. I understand trying to drive more people into the building with a better program (which, I can add, they have already tried and failed at) but how much money can you throw at one building with the kind of backlog of maintenance that exists?

According to the handout the rest of the meeting was discussing how to sell this to the public. I have a suggestion: rather than saying how much you did, give us a list, with costs, for every single project. Don't have some huge sheet and say, "See how much we did." Tell us how much it cost and what didn't get done.

So the preliminary list and why I was annoyed - no, Roosevelt and our security cameras didn't make the list. Even though all the other high schools have (or will have them under BEX III). Even though yes, it is a life safety issue. Highlights from the list:

  • There are several schools getting a lot of money poured into them that are likely BEX IV candidates. I almost hope they do make a BEX IV list and then whoever makes that list gets scaled back on BTA. Why pour money into buildings that either get renovated or maybe even closed? With BEX III the district has just about covered every single high school, so maybe it's time to move onto middle schools. Eckstein is slated for $19M on this list. I have no issue with this except that it seems if they need that much, they should be on BEX IV with some work from this levy to tide them over.
  • Jane Addams? They are wasting no time because the list has them down for over $10M in repairs.
  • Other candidates that were mentioned for BEX IV are Arbor Heights down for over $4M, Olympic Hills over $2M, Rodgers over $2M and Roxhill over $1M. (Staff mentioned these as possibles for BEX IV, not me.)
  • Hooray! The Meany building is slated for over $17M in upgrades/repairs. Great for Nova/SBOC (and sad for the exiting Meany students). However, I'm not sure it includes science labs which are vital for both schools.
  • Closed site John Marshall is down for over $1M and hold your breath, interim site Lincoln is down for over $6M. Okay, Hamilton is leaving in a year, they say no new high school for Magnolia/QA so just what are we doing with this building that we would pour so much money into it? Memorial Stadium - probably the largest property we own? $32,000. Total for interim/closed buildings - over $10M. Really?


Maureen said...

Technology 78,195,000
includes data management, school servies, district services, IT infrastructure, classroom services, business operations,data management
How many schools have sufficient computer facilities to implement the MAP testing next year? Also, the Discovering math texts seem to be pretty dependent on the internet for supplementary materials. Melissa, do you know if anyone is thinking about these issues?

hschinske said...

Just got the letters below. I thought Chris Carter was going to Jane Addams? What happened?
Helen Schinske

Dear Hamilton International Middle School community members,
This morning I announced to my staff that I have been granted a leave for the 2009/10 school year and that I will not be returning as principal at Hamilton.
My decision to leave the Hamilton community was a difficult one to make, and was based primarily on personal family reasons. I am proud of the learning community that we have developed together and will miss working amongst the students and staff of Hamilton every day.

I am very pleased that Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson has decided to appoint Mr. Chris Carter as my replacement. (see letter attached) I am confident that he will be able to effectively lead the Hamilton community.

Mr. Carter will be able to spend some time getting to know Hamilton this spring, but will be focused on his current commitment to the African American Academy community as well. Please know that I am committed to a smooth transition of leadership and to working with Mr. Carter to ensure the future success of Hamilton International Middle School.

Katie Cryan Leary

May 15, 2009

Dear staff, students, and families of Hamilton International Middle School:

I am pleased to announce that Mr. Chris Carter has been appointed principal at Hamilton Middle School, effective July 1, 2009.

We believe that Mr. Carter’s extensive classroom and school experience and his strong educational leadership make him an excellent match for the Hamilton learning community. He has worked in Seattle Public Schools as a principal, teacher and educator for nine years and is committed to academic success for all children.

Mr. Carter’s expertise, experience and knowledge of the middle school learning environment make him an excellent match with the Hamilton school community. Possessing a pragmatic instructional philosophy focused on excellence and achievement, he has worked in Seattle Public Schools as both a principal and a teacher. Mr. Carter has taught at the elementary and middle school grades and is a data-driven, collaborative educator looking forward to working with the Hamilton learning community.

Before his appointment to the African American Academy, Mr. Carter served as assistant principal at Pacific Middle School in the Highline School District, was a house administrator and teacher at Mercer Middle School in Seattle and also taught at Horace Mann Elementary School in Long Beach, California. Mr. Carter, who comes from a family of educators, has an undergraduate degree in history from the University of Washington, holds a masters degree in teaching from City University and a principal’s certificate from Western Washington University.

Ms. Katie Cryan Leary, your current principal, has been granted a leave, starting July 1, 2009. Ms. Cryan Leary has been an effective leader for your school and I want to take this opportunity to thank her for her commitment to students, staff and families.

I especially appreciate the positive learning community that you have built at Hamilton Middle School, and look forward to continued success for all students.


Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, Ph.D.

seattle citizen said...

They are doing some extensive work on roof systems of CLOSED BUILDINGS(including seismic) to avoid having to do it in the future. Is there an inventory of which buildings will be sold soon or never used again, and if so, should the district incur seimic cosdts, or would the buyer do this work? Will the district make its money back from seismic work if it sells the buildings?

seattle citizen said...

re computer capabilities:
District is currently upgrading student computers in some buildings (phasing in new equipment)
I don't know if this adds capacity.

My suggestion would be to do what some schools do, which is to build wireless laptop carts. A cart can have 20-30 laptops, and move around the building as needed. It requires some scheduling, but allows for some flexibility and keeps costs lower.

It seems impossible to put personal computers for each student in every classroom. Conversely, "giving" each student a laptop to carry around, and carry home, seems fraught with additional costs, not only in the original purchase, but in replacing "lost" or damaged units.

Con-conversely, the equity issues needs to be addressed. Some students still do not have ready access to PCs at home. Not only is this a huge disadvantage in this day and age, but it also might impact assessment scores as the "WASL" migrates to computers next year, and as other assessments use online capabilities: Those students who aren't quick on a keyboard/mouse will be slower to answer questions...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Seattle Citizen, I'm all for keeping up the closed buildings but
(1) we have a lot of them and that makes for more money going that direction instead of into buildings we actually use
(2) no, I don't think we would make the money back because I suspect most buyers would tear them down (we might if someone were to inhabit them a la University Heights)

(3) this goes directly to the issue of property management and why we keep so many buildings

Maureen, I don't know any answers to your questions. My notes don't reflect any Board members raising these issues but again, I only stayed for the first half of the meeting.

anonymous said...

Debbie Nelson will be the sole principal at Addams. If enrollment is much higher than expected they may hire an asst principal or head teacher.

Charlie Mas said...

In lieu of dedicated computer labs, we could explore the idea of "computer lab carts". In this model, there is a cart with laptops, wireless router and a server. The cart is wheeled into the students' regular classroom, the laptops are distributed, the server is plugged in to power, the router, and, most likely, the internet, and we are up and running.

When the computer lab time is over, the laptops go back on the cart, are wheeled into a storage closet, and are plugged in to re-charge.

Not only does this save the cost of building out a computer lab, it saves a room in the school so it can be used as a classroom or as a special purpose room.

Laptops don't really cost any more than desktops these days.

Maureen said...

(this needs its own thread)

So, what other principals are floating around out there? Not purely academic interest on my part, since one of them will end up appointed to TOPS; apparently with no community input in violation of Board Policy C54.00 on Alternative Education (section 2)


Unknown said...

Regarding what Seattle Citizen said about computers...

I agree that we don't need one for every kid. Imagine the tremendous amount of money required to improve the broad-band alone for that many more computers.

And what is the number one way computers are used in schools? Word processing, followed closely by basic research. What a shame to have such a powerful tool used mostly to do what a pencil and enclyclopedia can do. Don't get me wrong, these are important uses too, just not ones that require new computers...

Laptop carts can be awesome. I have used them (with a wireless network built in to the cart) to have classes do interactive websites etc. In the building I am in now, the braodband capacity for it would be somewhat problematic. From what I know lots of the smaller schools have only a single T-1 line, so anyone who was hoping to do laptops and streaming video or any of the more media intensive sites would be out of luck.

Maureen said...

Charlie and Citizen Have you seen any estimates on the cost of "computer lab carts"? I can see how the computers themselves might be comparable in cost to desk tops, but does the cart, server, router add much?

seattle citizen said...

I doubt the peripherals would add TOO much to overall cost. And consider the savings:
Don't need to buy dedicated computer tables (with slide drawers for keyboards, holes in back for cables etc) each of which probably costs as much as just one cart that could serve a whole room;
Don't need to dedicate a room to computer lab; Don't need to bring students out of class, cart comes to them...
The bigger tech issue is the one Tim points out: Bandwidth. School computers routinely slow down as students stream video (for projects or play, aurrgh!) etc. There's just not enough bandwidth.
But there is soooo much more a computer can be used for, and in this wired city, you'd figure that promoting the technology would be a priority.
In the district's defense, they've been consistently adding hardware, software, networking capability, tesch support...They're doing a fair job with limited resources, but of course being an under-funded public school system, they're still lagging.
But we DO have a stadium in the city with a retractable roof! So I guess we have our demonstration of how technologically advanced we are!

Shannon said...

Is Chris Carter a good principal? I was feel a bit cautious of the APP Hamilton merge but am confident it can work out with good leadership.

Is this what he brings?

Charlie Mas said...

I have been told that the price tag for a "computer lab on a cart" is about $25,000. That's pretty cheap.

seattle citizen said...

I wonder how many laptops on that cart. I understand that there are typically 20, which comes to...$1,250 each...hmmm...
I bet they could do better.
Now, if they have 30 laptops per, that's not only a complete classroom (well, it was until this week's RIFs...sigh...) but then the units would only be a bit more than $800 each...

Charlie Mas said...

Don't forget that the carts need more than laptops. They need a server, a wireless router capable of handling over 25 connections, chargers, software, installation, support, and the cart itself.

anonymous said...

What about just giving each kid a laptop like Shoreline does? They get their laptop in the beginning of the year, and turn it back in in May. They recycle the same computers year after year. They do have to pay for a "tech guy" that kids can go to if their computers malfunction, but otherwise it's been pretty cost efficient.

And, they got a grant for the initial start up costs.

hschinske said...

If we're into wave-of-the-future handwaving, what about just getting each kid a e-book reader? Download textbooks, some browser capability, no heavy backpacks ...

Helen Schinske

Maureen said...

Our tech committee guy put together a budget for a PC lab with 32 computers that came in at just over $35,0000 ($891.80 per computer plus shipping, tax, cables,no printers or furniture). We have a place to put it (Old Macs there now that District won't support and our Mac Daddy is graduating).

snaffles said...

Under BEX III the new (and old) design for the proposed addition at Ingraham adds one classroom, but by the time all is done the entire project is over 25 million.

Alternative designs could add 22 classrooms, (11 being replaced + 12 more) or double the size of the school, Other alternatives add an additonal 5 classrooms. Why isn't the need for future population growth being considered now?

Currently Ingraham is headed for another City Hearing, and probably a Superiour Court hearing.
The "new" design filed by the District placed the Addition in the trees again. Even though there are alternatives that would keep the District out of court.

Where is the money going?
To lawsuits for every project?